Sulfur for Controlling Fleas on Dogs
Sulfur is not safe for dogs and should not be used as flea control or fed to dogs in their diet. Dr. Ingrid Taylor, a veterinarian with 16 years of experience in general clinical and emergency practice and public health, explained that while there are many safe and effective preventatives and treatments for fleas, sulfur is not one of them. But flea control is an important part of a dog's routine care. To keep your dog safe from fleas, you should keep them on preventatives year-round and know the signs and symptoms of a flea problem.
Signs of a flea problem in dogs
When a flea bites a dog, it leaves a small, raised red dot on the skin. Unfortunately, that can be difficult for pet owners to detect, especially if the dog has long fur. However, you can look out for skin problems, such as scabs; hair loss; and severe itching, scratching, or chewing at the pet's skin.
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If you suspect that your dog has a flea problem, you should look for signs of adult fleas or flea eggs on your dog. Fleas are very small, measuring approximately 1 to 3 millimeters in length. Even so, you might be able to see them moving around in the areas of your dog's neck, ears, abdomen, lower back, or the base of their tail. You can also use a flea comb on your dog to see if you pick up any fleas, flea eggs, or flea dirt.
Flea allergy dermatitis and other complications in dogs
No matter how sensitive your dog is to flea bites, there's no doubt that they're uncomfortable to deal with. Some dogs may also have a common skin disease known as flea allergy dermatitis. This is when a dog has an allergic reaction to flea saliva. For dogs with allergic flea dermatitis, a bite can lead to severe itching, irritation, hair loss, scaly skin, and secondary skin infections.
Another health complication that can stem from fleas is tapeworms. Dogs become exposed to tapeworms if they ingest an infected flea while grooming themselves or when tending to an irritating flea bite. When this happens, the tapeworm egg can be released and can hatch in the dog's intestine, completing its life cycle. Tapeworms need to be treated by a veterinarian, and without treatment, they can cause anemia and intestinal blockages.
How to treat fleas in dogs
Home remedies, such as sulfur, are not recommended for flea treatment on your pets. "Sulfur is not an accepted flea control treatment, and should not be fed to dogs in their diet," says Dr. Taylor. "Lime sulfur shampoos or dips may be used in therapy for ringworm; however this is not an accepted or recommended flea treatment." Sulfur can be very drying to a dog's skin and should only be used for conditions such as sarcoptic mange and ringworm.
"In addition to lime sulfur dips to treat ringworm, sulfur containing shampoos have antifungal, antiparasitic, anti-itch, and the ability to remove scaling and crusts due to skin infection, called pyoderma," says Dr. Taylor. "It may be useful to remove scaling prior to administering and antimicrobial shampoo, but it can be very drying to the skin."
The first step to getting rid of fleas is asking your veterinarian which pet-safe treatment they recommend. Flea treatment can come in the form of shampoos, sprays, powders, topical treatments, and oral medications. You can find products that can kill adult fleas and/or prevent flea larvae from maturing. When using any flea treatment, be sure to follow the instructions exactly as they are written and provided to you by your veterinarian.
Treatment with insecticides as an active ingredient (such as Frontline) for flea control is very safe as long as they are used as directed. Giving your dog their prescribed flea control medication regularly is a great way to reduce the chance of flea problems in the future. Some medications also include ingredients that can protect against ear mites, ticks, and other parasites.
How to treat fleas in and around your home
In addition to treating your dog for a flea infestation, you'll want to treat your entire household, especially in the areas where flea eggs, larvae, and pupae are most likely to be located. Pay particularly close attention to your dog's favorite spots to sleep, which might include your carpet, the upholstery on their favorite pieces of furniture, and their beds. You should also pay close attention to baseboards and crevices between floor seams or floorboards, as larvae are likely to live in these areas.
You can use sprays that are designed for use in your house to kill fleas, even those in the larval stages. You can also hire a pest control company to apply insecticides both indoors and outdoors. Your veterinarian may be able to recommend treatments and professional pet control companies in addition to recommending products for use on your dog.
Sulfur is not a safe method for controlling fleas on dogs and can be very drying to a dog's skin. While there are some supplements and natural flea control products that can be used for dogs, when it comes to fleas, you should only provide treatment based on your veterinarian's recommendations. If you have a question about whether a natural product or remedy is appropriate for your dog, trust your veterinarian's guidance.